By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is predicting an above-average hurricane season, which starts today, so communities along Louisiana’s coast are bracing for yet another possible disaster. The historic Mississippi River floodwaters have barely begun to recede. Additionally, the Gulf is still recovering from last summer’s devastating BP oil disaster. These tragic events, in addition to the ongoing rapid land loss along Louisiana’s coast during the last eight decades, continue making the state’s coastal communities and cities vulnerable to disaster.
Every hour, more than a football field’s worth of Louisiana’s wetlands disappear. These wetlands act as a natural storm surge barrier, protecting Louisiana’s coast. As land loss caused by sinking land increases, these vital wetlands disappear, leaving people and infrastructure exposed and vulnerable. Numerous industries, communities, and wildlife depend on the Mississippi River Delta for survival, and it is imperative that the region be revitalized and restored for the future of the region and the nation.
One way to bring Louisiana’s coast and the Gulf back to health is for Congress to dedicate at least 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP oil spill to Gulf restoration. The states that were devastated by last summer’s disaster deserve compensation, especially in Louisiana, where the ecological damage was greatest. This money can be used to replant damaged wetlands, which will in turn help protect the state from future disasters. Directing BP’s fines to Gulf restoration will make the region safer and better than it was before the oil spill. And with the six-month hurricane season starting today, we have no time to lose.